The Chinese-American Race for Hegemony in Asia

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1 centro studi per i popoli extra-europei cesare bonacossa - università di pavia The Journal of the Italian think tank on Asia founded by Giorgio Borsa in 1989 Vol. XXVI / 2015 The Chinese-American Race for Hegemony in Asia Edited by Michelguglielmo Torri and Nicola Mocci viella

2 Asia Maior. The Journal of the Italian Think Tank on Asia founded by Giorgio Borsa in Copyright Viella s.r.l. & Associazione Asia Maior ISSN Annual journal - Vol. XXVI, 2015 This journal of the Associazione Asia Maior is published jointly by Associazione Asia Maior & CSPE - Centro Studi per i Popoli extra-europei Cesare Bonacossa - Università di Pavia Editor (direttore responsabile): Michelguglielmo Torri, Junior editor: Nicola Mocci, Editorial Board: Axel Berkofsky, Simonetta Casci, Diego Maiorano, Nicola Mocci, Giulio Pugliese, Michelguglielmo Torri, Pierluigi Valsecchi Book review editors: Oliviero Frattolillo, Francesca Congiu, Segreteria di redazione: Progetto grafico di Nicola Mocci Asia Maior. The Journal is an open-access journal, whose issues and single articles can be freely downloaded from the think tank webpage: Paper version Italy Abroad Subscription viella libreria editrice via delle Alpi, 32 I ROMA tel fax

3 centro studi per i popoli extra-europei cesare bonacossa - università di pavia ASIA MAIOR The Journal of the Italian think tank on Asia founded by Giorgio Borsa in 1989 Vol. XXVI / 2015 The Chinese-American Race for Hegemony in Asia Edited by Michelguglielmo Torri and Nicola Mocci viella

4 associazione asia Maior Steering Committe: Marzia Casolari (President), Enrica Garzilli, Nicola Mocci (Vice President), Riccardo Redaelli, Michelguglielmo Torri (Scientific Director) Scientific Board: Guido Abbattista (Università di Trieste), Domenico Amirante (Università «Federico II», Napoli), Elisabetta Basile (Università «La Sapienza», Roma), Luigi Bonanate (Università di Torino), Claudio Cecchi (Università «La Sapienza», Roma), Alessandro Colombo (Università di Milano), Anton Giulio Maria de Robertis (Università di Bari), Thierry Di Costanzo (Université de Strasbourg), Max Guderzo (Università di Firenze), Franco Mazzei (Università «L Orientale», Napoli), Giorgio Milanetti (Università «La Sapienza», Roma), Paolo Puddinu (Università di Sassari), Adriano Rossi (Università «L Orientale», Napoli), Giuseppe Sacco (Università «Roma Tre», Roma), Guido Samarani (Università «Ca Foscari», Venezia), Filippo Sabetti (McGill University, Montréal), Gianni Vaggi (Università di Pavia), Alberto Ventura (Università della Calabria) CSPE - Centro Studi per i Popoli extra-europei Cesare Bonacossa - Università di Pavia Steering Committee: Axel Berkofsky, Arturo Colombo, Antonio Morone, Giulia Rossolillo, Gianni Vaggi, Pierluigi Valsecchi (President), Massimo Zaccaria Asia Maior. The Journal of the Italian Think Tank on Asia founded by Giorgio Borsa in 1989 [hereafter Asia Maior, The Journal] is the journal of Asia Maior An Italian think tank on Asia (the legal name of which, in Italian, is: «Associazione Asia Maior»). Asia Maior is a peer-reviewed journal which has been classified by ANVUR, the Italian authority in charge of the evaluation of Italian higher education and research, as a class A journal in the field of Asia s history. It is possible to publish in Asia Maior only by invitation; authors are chosen on the basis of their previous scientific work. However, scholars with adequate experience, who are willing to publish, are encouraged to submit their candidacy, accompanied by a curriculum vitae and a paper whose subject is related to the country which the aspirant author desires to analyse in Asia Maior.

5 contents nicola Mocci & MichelguglielMo torri Foreword: Asia Maior in 2015 Francesca congiu China 2015: Implementing the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21 st Century Maritime Silk Road barbara onnis & Marco Milani Korean peninsula 2015: one step forward and two steps back giulio pugliese Japan 2015: Confronting East Asia s Geopolitical Game of Go salvador santino F. regilme Jr.& carmina Yu untalan The Philippines : Domestic politics and foreign relations, a critical review elena valdameri Indonesia 2015: The First Year of the «People s President» stephan ortmann Singapore : A Tale of Two Elections stefano caldirola Malaysia 2015: Najib Razak s hardest year pavin chachavalpongpun Thailand 2015: Anxiety over the royal succession in the post coup 2014 nicola Mocci Cambodia 2015: 30 years of Hun Sen s government and the progressive centralization of power Michela cerimele Vietnam : the strengthening of relations between Vietnam and the United States pietro Masina Myanmar 2015: Political turning point, economic and social challenges Marzia casolari Bangladesh 2015: The emergence of radical Islam MichelguglielMo torri & diego Maiorano India 2015: The uncertain record of the Modi government danila berloffa Sri Lanka 2015: The downing of a new era? Marco corsi Pakistan 2015: domestic and foreign policy challenges diego abenante Afghanistan 2015: the national unity government at work: reforms, war, and the search for stability Matteo FuMagalli Kyrgyzstan 2015: A country adrift Fabio indeo Turkmenistan 2015: existing challenges to the permanent neutrality and the strategic development of the multivector energy policy aniseh bassiri tabrizi & claudia castiglioni Iran : in the midst of Change Reviews Appendix

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7 the philippines : domestic politics and Foreign relations, a critical review Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr. and Carmina Yu Untalan Northern Illinois University, USA; De La Salle University-Manila Osaka University, Japan This article analyses some of the key issues in Philippine domestic politics and foreign policy during the years 2014 to The analysis is divided into two main parts. First, the article examines domestic politics from the lens of political corruption, President Aquino s good governance programme, and electoral politics. Second, the article examines the principal patterns of power relations and key issues in regard to the Philippine government s foreign policy and international diplomacy strategy with a particular focus on bilateral relations with the United States, the rise of China and the territorial disputes, and regional economic integration in the context of the ASEAN. The main argument here is that the key patterns of domestic and foreign policies and strategies of the Philippine government under the Aquino administration reveal historically constituted shortcomings of the Philippine state in autonomously steering its own long-term development outcomes, primarily because of two factors: the internal struggles amongst various elite factions within the state-society nexus and the peripheral and US-centric roles that the country plays in the international system. 1. Introduction My hope is that when I leave office, everyone can say that we have traveled far on the right path, and that we are able to bequeath a better future to the next generation. Join me in continuing this fight for change. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III 1 Elected based on his «good governance» platform, President Benigno Aquino III s legally mandated presidential term started last June 30, 2010, and his presidency is expected to last until mid The quotation above is cited from the last paragraph of Aquino s speech, which he gave when he was inaugurated as the 15 th President of the Republic of the Philippines. Amidst the last few months of the Aquino presidency, did his leadership live up to the promise of «good governance» he so willingly invoked during his campaign and in the inaugural address? How did the Aquino administration address key issues of domestic politics and foreign policy? 1. Inaugural Address Speech of Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, 30 June 2010 ( 133

8 salvador santino F. regilme Jr. & carmina Yu untalan This article analyses the key developments in Philippine domestic politics and foreign policy during the years 2014 to The analysis is divided into two main parts. First, the article examines domestic politics from the lens of political corruption, economic development, peace and conflict, and electoral politics. Second, the article examines the principal patterns of power relations and key issues in regard to the Philippine government s foreign policy and international diplomacy strategy with a particular focus on bilateral relations with the United States as well as the territorial disputes in the region in the context of the rise of China as a regional power. The main argument here is that the key patterns of domestic and foreign policies and strategies of the Philippine government under the Aquino administration reveal historically constituted shortcomings to autonomously steer towards its own long-term development goals, primarily because of two factors: the internal struggles amongst various élite factions within the state-society nexus and the peripheral and US-centric roles that the country plays in the international system. The analysis of this article begins in the next section with a discussion on key issues in domestic politics in the Philippines during the years 2014 and Domestic politics Similar to the previous administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ( ), current President Benigno Aquino III commenced his mandate with a massive campaign against «bad» politics through his daang matuwid (straight path) governance brand. Aquino s candidacy in the 2010 national elections could not have been timelier: the death of his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, who had become the symbol of Philippine democracy, occurred when Arroyo was facing serious corruption and electoral fraud allegations. In his inaugural speech in 2010, he vowed to transform politics by getting rid of patronage politics, junketeering, «senseless spending», and bribery. 2 The focal point of his reputed social contract with the people was «transformational change», which highlighted what he aspired to accomplish: a dramatic transition from a failed leadership that incited cynicism to an ethical one bound to stimulate renewed hope for the country. 3 This is manifest in the usual narrative of his annual State of the Nation Address that extols his administration s accomplishments against the backdrop of pressing corruption and culture of impunity, both treated as an inheritance from Arroyo and her henchmen. 2. Inaugural Address 2010, Speech of Benigno S. Aquino III, (English translation), June 30, 2010, Official Gazette ( 3. A Social Contract with the Filipino People, Official Gazette, ( ph/about/gov/exec/bsaiii/platform-of-government). 134

9 the philippines The unfortunate reality of Asia s «oldest democracy» 4 being trapped in the cycle of changelessness cannot be understood through piecemeal narration of each presidency. Likewise, adjectives attached to democracy, like «cacique», «clientelist», «élite», «oligarchic», and «bourgeois» could only offer new perspectives if dovetailed with the three formidable historical chapters that form the present political reality in the Philippines. 5 The first is the Spanish colonization ( ). Spain ruled and influenced the Filipinos mostly through Catholicism. With 86% of the population being Roman Catholics, the church has a decisive influence on domestic politics, particularly concerning the choice of leaders and their fate and social policies, such as the approval of the Reproductive Health Law. 6 Politicians are known to solicit political support from the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations, most notably Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), given their huge religious following and remarkable reach to ordinary citizens. Moreover, the predominance of Catholicism has had a huge impact on the people s perception and treatment of Muslim minorities in the country. The second historical chapter influencing the political present of the Philippines is represented by the American colonization ( ). Operating as a tutelary colonial state to introduce democracy in the Philippines, the US allowed Filipinos to conduct free elections and hold government offices under the supervision of the American administration. Since the 4. Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr., Why Asia s Oldest Democracy Is Bound to Fail: Analyzing Post Philippine Democracy, Journal of Developing Societies, pp (forthcoming). 5. These are prevailing characterizations in the most prominent works on Philippine politics. For instance: Benedict Anderson Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams, The New Left Review, Vol. 1, Issue 169, May-June 1988; John Sidel, Capital, Coercion and Crime: Bossism in the Philippines, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999; Carl H. Lande, Leaders, Factions and Politics: The Structure of Philippine Politics. New Haven: Yale University Southeast Asia Monograph No. 6, 1965; Paul D. Hutchcroft, Booty Capitalism: The Politics of Banking in the Philippines, New York: Cornell University Press, The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, or Reproductive Health (RH) Law, ensures the universal access to contraceptive methods, sexual education, and maternal healthcare. The implementation of the RH Law was halted, due to claims that it promotes artificial contraceptive methods and even abortion, which may be detrimental to women s health. The strongest opposition comes from the members of the Catholic Church who argue that the law is against family values and the right to life of the unborn. In 8 April 2014, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled the RH Law as constitutional. Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Socrates Villegas called for the support of the Catholic faithful «to maintain respect and esteem for the Supreme Court». See CBCP Statement on RH Law, Statement of Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP President ( For an in-depth discussion of the influence of the Catholic Church on the Reproductive Health Bill debate, see Eric Marcelo O. Genilo, SJ, The Catholic Church and the Reproductive Health Bill Debate: The Philippine Experience, The Heythrop Journal, Vol. 55, No. 6, November

10 salvador santino F. regilme Jr. & carmina Yu untalan Americans lacked a sufficient number of civilians to administer a colony, they ruled indirectly through landed élites and clans that then and now govern important regions. This meant that the few existing local economic élites and the «ilustrados» («learned» or «enlightened ones»), namely the members of the educated class, which had taken shape during the Spanish colonial era, were absorbed into the «administrative» machinery to get their political support. In return, these classes were protected from seditious and popular opposition. Many of these élites developed a «directing class» mentality. Such belief in their status as an educated and usually well-to-do class granted them the privilege to act as the «natural leaders» of the popular mass. 7 Although Filipinos are generally grateful for the American heritage of electoral democracy, it is difficult to deny that it gave birth to the modern Philippines political ills. In Benedict Anderson s words, «it was above all the political innovations of the Americans that created a solid, visible national oligarchy». 8 The third and last historical chapter to mould the Filipino political present is the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, 9 which became both the country s boon and bane. The peaceful movement led by the alliance between the Catholic Church, the opposition élites, and the middle class restored Philippine democracy after over two decades of dictatorship under Ferdinand Marcos. The 1983 assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr., perhaps Marcos s fiercest political rival, significantly influenced the Filipino public s choice for his wife, Corazon Aquino, for president. Nevertheless, despite a new type of government, familiar faces facilitated the continuity of traditional patronage politics amidst a change of leadership. The peaceful EDSA revolution has since morphed into a tool for both destroying and seizing power, with two more EDSAs following as if to mock the original. Specifically, the EDSA 2 Revolution in 2001 resulted in President Joseph Estrada s resignation on the count of plunder and corruption allegations. Only three months after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was sworn into office, another «EDSA» occurred, only to reinstate Estrada. The irony is that the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution also produced the «EDSA system» that «encouraged maximum factional competition among the élite while allowing them to maintain a united front against any change in the system of social and economic inequality». 10 That is, in spite of their name, the 7. Julian Go, Colonial Reception and Cultural Reproduction: Filipino Elites and United States Tutelary Rule, Journal of Historical Sociology, Vol. 12, No. 4, December Benedict Anderson, Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams. 9. EDSA People Power Revolution derived its name from Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, where the demonstrations took place. The Archdiocesan Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace was built in EDSA to commemorate the 1989 People Power Revolution. 10. Walden Bello et al., The Anti-Developmental State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines, New York: Zed Books, 2004, pp

11 the philippines second and third EDSAs are by no means revolutionary. Therefore, we find the two presidents, Estrada and Arroyo, who were brought down by EDSAs, now occupying official positions. Estrada is currently the Mayor of the Philippines capital city, Manila, while Arroyo is serving as a Congresswoman representing her native province, Pampanga. Political reforms, no matter how well intended, are deeply conditioned by these historical factors. Years 2014 and 2015 are as good as any other year to illustrate the recurring or even deepening problems of Philippine domestic politics throughout the past decades. In 1991, prominent political scientist David Wurfel described Filipino politics from Ferdinand Marcos ( ) to Corazon Aquino ( ) in terms of «development» and «decay». 11 Despite being cognizant of the minor developments that took place during the transition, he was wary of the real possibility that the new Corazon Aquino-led regime would restore the old crony system in the guise of democracy. This is a prophecy that seems to be confirmed by Corazon Aquino s son s fast track to the presidency. The focus of this section is to discuss three enduring issues in Philippine domestic politics, particularly as they manifested themselves in the years 2014 to 2015: (1) political corruption, (2) conflict and development, and (3) democracy and elections. As we shall see, Benigno Aquino III had a promising start but, eventually, was unable to prevent further political decay for the Philippines Political corruption One of the most sensational corruption scandals, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, broke out during the Aquino administration. PDAF, or what is popularly known as «pork barrel», are lumpsum funds given to legislators to be used at their discretion to finance public infrastructure and development projects. Politicians have always been notorious for «pork-barrel» funding small-scale, often dubious projects, such as basketball courts and road reconstruction, to boost their popularity among voters. 12 However the PDAF scandal revealed the gravity of corruption behind closed doors. The scandal came to light in July 2013, when one of the country s leading newspapers, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, published a series of exposé articles about what the National Bureau of Investigation called the «mother of all scams». An estimated amount of 10 billion pesos (2.13 billion US 11. David Wurfel, Filipino Politics: Development and Decay, Quezon City. New York: Cornell University Press, The majority of Philippine local government officials put their faces and names on banners at projects and events to solicit credit and attention from their constituencies. A bill banning such practice is pending in the Congress. 137

12 salvador santino F. regilme Jr. & carmina Yu untalan dollars) «pork barrel» funds were stolen from the government. 13 The chief operator Janet Lim Napoles solicited «pork barrel» from legislators to fund what later transpired to be ghost projects and fictitious non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Her vast networks in government agencies and the Congress had allowed the projects to go unchallenged for the past ten years. Some of Napoles s most influential accomplices included top legislators Juan Ponce Enrile, a nonagenarian who had been intermittently serving the government since the 1970s, Jinggoy Estrada, Joseph Estrada s son, and Bong Revilla, a son of a former senator. After a series of deliberations on whether the Senate should probe into the case, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee 14 finally began its investigation on 1 April The Supreme Court declared PDAF unconstitutional seven months later. While the investigations took place, the Aquino administration continued to fight corruption. Early in 2014, it recovered a part of Ferdinand Marcos ill-gotten wealth and returned it to the national treasury. Aquino abolished six non-performing government-owned and controlled corporations to streamline and improve public services. A number of appointed officials were also charged with graft and corruption, including another Estrada, E.R. Ejercito, who was unseated after being found guilty of misuse of election funds. In spite of the Aquino administration s trumpeted accomplishments, it has also fallen victim to its own anti-corruption strategy. Following the PDAF scam, the public began to scrutinize Aquino s own undisclosed and unaudited 220-billion-peso (4.7 billion US dollars) «pork barrel». 15 His administration was even accused of illegally spending public funds through his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a stimulus economic programme designed to efficiently allocate the budget through fund reassignment and «unprogrammed funds» spending. After a series of investigations and impeachment motions filed by the opposition and civil society groups, in July 2014, the Supreme Court ruled the DAP unconstitutional. However, the Aquino administration s motion for reconsideration was partially granted in early 2015, leaving the DAP issue unresolved. This caused a deep rift between the executive and judiciary branches, 16 as well as Aquino and Department of Budget Management Secretary Florencio Abad, who was the co-executor of the DAP project. 13. NBI Probes P10-B scam: pork, government funds used in ghost projects, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 July The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigates alleged violations committed by members of the government and government agencies. Its main purpose is to propose laws or legislative amendments in lieu of the investigated misdeeds. The Committee s membership is based on elections among senators. 15. Rigoberto Tiglao, Biggest secret of all: Aquino s P220 billion pork barrel, The Manila Times, 29 June DAP dancing: The President versus the Supreme Court, The Economist, 2 August

13 the philippines Insofar as the PDAF scam was concerned, Napoles was indicted in April 2015 and sentenced to reclusión perpetua, or 40 years of imprisonment without parole, while her chief collaborators senators Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla were found guilty of plunder. These results were highlighted by Aquino as one of the achievements of his administration s tuwid na daan (straight path) campaign. However, these four major players were down but not out, as shown by the fact that Revilla s and Napoles bail petitions were denied in the first division of Sandiganbayan, the Philippines collegial appellate court. At the closing of the period under review, Napoles lawyers were contemplating an appeal to the Supreme Court. 17 She also attempted to seek refuge in the Catholic Church through the Catholic Bishops Conference of the CBCP. Her request was turned down on the basis of existing church law that does not allow the episcopal conference to become a guarantor of the accused. 18 To the public s surprise, Enrile was released from jail in August 2015, due to «humanitarian reasons». Not only that, but he has also returned as a senator and has recently been active in Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. s vice-presidential bid campaign for The irony is clear: From being Ferdinand Marcos loyal defence minister, then a key figure in ousting the dictator, he is now looking into bringing back a Marcos into the executive branch. As for Aquino, when asked if it would be acceptable to grant the same pardon to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest, due to serious spine complications, his reply was negative. 19 With such a mixed record, it is difficult to pass a positive judgment on Aquino s anti-corruption campaign. His insistent allusion to Arroyo s malefactions is gradually losing its magic in convincing the public that his administration is emphatically different. It is also unlikely for Aquino to escape DAP and PDAF allegations with ease. He is currently facing a fifth impeachment complaint for questionable spending. 20 Yet, Aquino appears undeterred by detractors and deaf to the fact that only three in ten Filipinos in 2014 still believed in his «straight path». 21 Aquino continues to vow that his government will weed out all sources of corruption. 17. After denial by Sandiganbayan Napoles camp mulls elevating bail plea to SC, GMA News Online, 19 October CBCP refuses Napoles plea to be taken into Catholic Church s custody, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8 July To date, international lawyer, Amal Alamuddin Clooney is handling Arroyo s petition. According to Clooney, Arroyo s detention is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They are not filing for the former president s release on the grounds of humanitarian reasons Impeachment bids prior to Aquino s 5 th SONA, The Daily Tribune, 25 July Pulse Asia: Only 3 in 10 Filipinos believe Aquino fulfilled «tuwid na daan» promise, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 October

14 salvador santino F. regilme Jr. & carmina Yu untalan 2.2. Economic development According to recent research, the most compelling concern for the ordinary Filipino is the absence of significant upward social mobility, which requires the following policy priorities: (1) improving/increasing the pay of workers, (2) controlling inflation, and (3) fighting graft and corruption in the government. 22 Yet, beneath all the chaos within élite factions mentioned above, the Filipino public is finding it increasingly difficult to have faith in the government s current efforts to improve social and economic conditions. The Aquino administration formulated the Philippine Development Plan to address these problems through «inclusive growth», which means extending economic benefits to the poorest and marginalized sectors. In late November 2015, the Philippine National Statistics Authority announced that the Philippines has the third fastest GDP growth of 6.4% in Asia, following China and Malaysia with GDP growths of 6.9% and 6.8%, respectively. 23 The government attributes the growth to its prudent fiscal management and political stability. The World Bank even described the Philippine s economic transformation from being a «sick man in Asia» to being «Asia s rising tiger». 24 In his two previous State of the Nation addresses, President Aquino stressed the administration s economic accomplishments with commendable statistical data on increased foreign direct and domestic investments, employment opportunities, and manufacturing capabilities. 25 Despite these accomplishments, poverty indicators have not dramatically changed since In July 2015, prominent Filipino economist Cielito Habito observed that the Philippine economy witnessed a positive breakout in 2014 in three counts: prices, jobs, and income. However, he saw the recent economic slippages, particularly in the field of providing jobs and attracting foreign direct investment, as signs of the government losing 22. Pulse Asia Research s June 2015 Nationwide Survey on Urgent National Concerns, Pulse Asia Website, 24 September Philippine economy grows by 6% in Q3, Philippine Star,26 November The World Bank, Press statement of Motoo Konishi, Co-Chair of Philippine Development Forum, 6 February 2013 ( Press-Statement). 25. Government of The Philippines, State of the Nation Address 2014, Speech of Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, 28 July 2014 ( ph/2014/07/28/benigno-s-aquino-iii-fifth-state-of-the-nation-address-july ); State of the Nation Address 2014, Speech of Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, 27 July 2015 ( 26. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Philippine s poverty incidence in 2014 was registered at 25.8%. This rate is not significantly different from the World Bank data of 24.9% in 2003 and 25.2% in See Poverty Incidence among Filipinos registered at 25.8%, as of first semester 2014, Philippine Statistics Authority, 6 March

15 the philippines the momentum for growth. 27 In fact, the IBON Foundation, a leading nonstock and non-profit organization, characterized the economy under Aquino as «worsening exclusivity». 28 The IBON Foundation report indicates that the Philippine unemployment rate of 7.0% is the worst in Asia. Job shortage and underemployment are major reasons why Filipinos, especially the most educated, decide to work abroad. 29 High commodity prices and low average income have diminished the ordinary individual s purchasing power. At the same time, the lack of investment in the agricultural and other local industries also undermines the government s efforts in attracting foreign direct investments for economic growth. While the latter only provides short-term and limited impact, investing in local industries, on the other hand, would yield long-term benefits, including providing sustainable livelihood to agricultural workforce. The IBON Foundation also questions the quality of jobs the government boasts to have generated. Their report indicates that one-third of the total number of employed individuals are either self-employed or unpaid family workers, and therefore, increased employment rates do not necessarily mean improved quality of work conditions. 30 In addition, the wealth of the Philippines richest has grown by 250% since Chinese Filipinos and mestizos mainly make up this socio-economic group who monopolizes the country s major industries and applauds the government economic achievements. In short, the celebrated growth has been generally inclusive of the rich, yet highly exclusive of the poor. To improve the Filipinos education and marketability, the Aquino government led an education reform programme in line with the United Nation s Millennium Development Goals. Called the K to 12 Program, it seeks to improve the Filipino students skills and competency necessary for the job market. It also aims to elevate the Philippine education system to international standards. 32 The basic education curriculum will be brought up from the current 10-year to a 12-year pre-university education. Filipino students who have reached their senior year are given the choice to choose a track: aca- 27. Cielito F. Habito, Recent economic slippages, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 July Economy under the Aquino administration: Worsening exclusivity, IBON News, 28 July Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr., Is International Labor Migration Good for Democratic Consolidation?, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, Vol. 25, No.1, January 2013, pp Over one million jobs generated under Aquino poor in quality, IBON News, 5 October Aquino Legacy: Wealth of the richest tripled, IBON News, 24 July Being the only Asian country and among the three countries with a 10-year pre-university cycle, the Philippines clearly lags behind the Washington-accord and Bologna Process prescribed 12-year basic education required in an entry-level engineering position and university admission and professional practice in European countries. 141

16 salvador santino F. regilme Jr. & carmina Yu untalan demic, technical-vocational-livelihood, or sports and arts. After completing the requirements for a K to 12 degree, students will have the option to either work right after finishing secondary school or pursue a university degree. In any case, adding two more years in basic education is expected to give them a better chance for their pre-university education to be officially recognized abroad, both in university enrollment and professional employment. The two-pronged projected outcome of (1) holistic and competent students and (2) more job opportunities within and outside the country are expected to have a huge positive economic impact. The programme incremental implementation began in 2012 and expects completion in However, the initial eagerness of the Filipino public in the K to 12 Program is transforming into cynicism. 33 Indeed, critics are wary of the paucity of resources allocated to implement such dramatic change in the education system. The planned additional two years in the pre-university curriculum pose a logistical nightmare for the government, which has been dealing with classroom and teacher shortages for a very long time. The situation is much worse in areas with problematic supplies of textbooks and learning materials. 34 The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is concerned about the possible increase in dropout rates and the negative impact on academic and non-academic personnel, who are likely to face unemployment in the process. 35 According to a report jointly issued by the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Education, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Department of Labor and Employment, the reduction in college enrolment may affect approximately 25,090 employees. 36 Classroom shortages in public high schools may also lead to a higher dropout rate. An estimated one million students entering senior high school are expected to leave school because they cannot afford to transfer to private institutions. The government created the Tertiary Transition Education Fund to be disbursed in 2016 in order to address these logistical problems. On a more principled level, critics consider the K to 12 Program as «exploitation» and «abuse of power». Various mass protests called for the suspension of the programme s implementation, if not altogether scrapping 33. Majority of the Filipinos support K to 12 education program SWS Survey, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 July Shortage and undelivered books in peripheral areas is a recurring problem. According to the Commission on Audit (COA) the Department of Education was reported to have wasted Philippine Peso 608 million worth of books that were ordered yet not suitable for the new, enhanced curriculum. Teachers are also complaining about undelivered K to 12 books. 35. CBCP Statement on Catholic Schools and K to 12 Program. Statement of Socrates Villegas, D.D. CBCP President, CBCP News ( cbcpnews/?p=37539) ,090 teaching, non-teaching personnel to lose jobs when K-12 is in full swing, GMA News Online, 4 May

17 the philippines it. The government s harshest critics come from the civil society s left-wing organizations, which are worried that the programme may lead to further labour exploitation, especially among children and the youth. A number of public schools nationwide have played host to anti-k to 12 demonstrations, usually led by teachers, students, and parents. The Manila Science High School, one of the top public high schools in the country, filed a petition against the Aquino government to annul K to 12 to the Supreme Court on the grounds of «abuse of discretion». 37 Another group composed of university professors and academics, Alyansa ng mga Tagapagtanggol ng Wika («Defenders of the national language») or Tanggol Wika, also filed a case against the programme for deliberately undermining the Filipino language and native literature in favour of more «economically productive» courses. 38 The programme s unpopularity is largely due to the adverse shortterm consequences caused by its implementation. In fact, a point has been reached where no spin on the part of the government can assuage the doubts and fears of a conspicuous part of the public. So far, there have been a total of six petitions to stop the K to 12 programme. The government, nevertheless, remains convinced that the long-term social and economic benefits would later overshadow the current and foreseeable setbacks. Lastly, another key issue for Philippine economic policy under the Aquino administration is regional economic integration within the framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In principle, regional economic integration includes the following key goals: «(a) a single market and production base, (b) a highly competitive region, (c) a region of equitable economic development, and (d) a region fully integrated into the global economy» 39. To a substantial extent, the relatively impressive economic performance of the country under the Aquino administration was driven by a variety of domestic and international factors, including the country s commitment to be part of the ASEAN regional economic integration agenda. Indeed, this ambitious region-wide economic integration plan is also matched by the Aquino administration s relatively unprecedented economic governance measures that seek to bolster the country s economic competitiveness and political preparedness for ASEAN integration. As one of the country s most influential economists, Harvard-educated Bernardo Villegas assessed the Philippine s current economic state in the following words: «Only an earthquake like in Nepal and several typhoons like Yolanda can disrupt the growth of the Philippine economy. This is because of the political 37. Another petition vs. K to 12 to be filed before SC today, The Philippine Star, 23 June Tanggol Wika group asks SC to stop K-12 Program, The Philippine Daily Inquirer. 15 April 2015; Filipino language advocates to seek help vs. new CHED curriculum, GMA News Online, 2 December ASEAN Community 2015: Integration for Whom?, IBON International Policy Brief, 21 April

18 salvador santino F. regilme Jr. & carmina Yu untalan reforms made by former President Cory Aquino up to the incumbent.» 40 In addition, Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima attributed the country s remarkable economic performance to three factors: «First, transparency. People are being allowed to evaluate if changes are really happening. Two, rule of law and the responsiveness of the government. And others are inclusiveness, accountability and participation.» 41 In particular, the country s top trade official Gregory L. Domingo highlighted landmark policy interventions in promoting micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in bolstering the local economy. Considering the severe problem of heavy traffic in Metro Manila s main roads, Domingo clarified that the Philippine government «do[es] invest in the right infrastructure», whereby the administration «tripled our [the] infrastructure budget from around 165 billion Philippine pesos in 2010 to 535 billion» in Another key economic issue for the government was addressing the constitutional restrictions imposed on foreigners in terms of ownership of land. In particular, several local economists, including Gerardo Sicat, who was a former top economic adviser to the Philippine government. He was called for eliminating restrictions to foreign nationals in terms of land ownership, access to natural resources, and opportunity to invest in public infrastructure (current restriction in the 1987 Philippine Constitution limits foreigners ownership in these fields to 40% of the total value of the property in question) Peace and conflict Integrating the Muslims into a predominantly Christian state continues to be a multifaceted challenge for the Philippines. Muslims comprise approximately 5% of the country s population, 58% of which are in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Those who live in this region are collectively called «moros» (the Spanish word for «moors»), an identity that morphed from its derogatory Spanish colonial roots to its present self-identification function. 44 While the protracted armed conflict in 40. Chrisee Dela Paz, AEC 2015: Will PH Firms Be Market Disruptors?, Rappler, 21 May Ibid. 42. Philippines Seen Gaining Substantially From Asean Integration, Inquirer Business, 6 September Foreign Ownership Limits Hinder Phl Growth Potential, Philippine Star, 3 June It is important to note that non-muslim ethnic minorities called the lumads are also part of the ARMM. Since they comprise the minority of the region, some of them have assimilated to the Moros struggle for self-determination and territorial autonomy. For more, see Oona Paredes, Indigenous vs. native: negotiating the place of Lumads in the Bangsamoro homeland, Asian Ethnicity, Vol. 16, No. 2, Also, an ongoing major concern is the successive killings of lumads in Mindanao by military and paramilitary groups. 144

19 the philippines ARMM is often depicted in religious and ethnic terms, it is also a form of resistance against the national government based in «imperial» Manila. Like their counterparts in other Southeast Asian states, the inhabitants of this region represent a group of people whose settlement in the archipelago predates colonization, which they have more or less continuously resisted for centuries. In fact, the «moros» have resisted Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations and have more or less uninterruptedly been fighting for a separate territory and identity from the centre since the Spaniards colonized the archipelago. While the relationship between the Philippine state and the Muslims in Mindanao was relatively amicable in the 1920s, the rise of new intellectuals and counter-élites revived the demand for greater autonomy 50 years later. The Corregidor Jabidah massacre in 1968, when 28 Muslims were brutally murdered, and the Martial Law imposed in 1976 compounded the conflict between the government and the Muslims in the south. Internal ideological conflict in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), whose struggle was originally based on the search for self-determination of peoples in the region, regardless of their religion, gave birth to a number of religious-based breakaway groups. The most notable among them are the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf, born in 1978 and 1991, respectively. 45 Because of such groups insurgent and violent methods, the Philippine government and the international community consider them threats to peace. The United Nations and the US classify Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group with support from international terrorist network, al-qa ida. 46 Aside from this, the region is a magnet for criminal activities, such as kidnapping, murder, and ethnic violence. The New People s Army, an armed communist rebel group, is known to be very active in the area. The longstanding armed conflicts result in the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of local citizens. Economically, the ARMM is among the poorest regions in the country, with a poverty incidence rate of 48% in The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is the biggest rebel group in the Philippines. Contrast to the MNLF, who seeks to establish an independent Mindanao state, the MILF aims to create an independent Islamic state and is therefore religiously driven. The Abu Sayyaf group is a militant Islamist separatist group that has established terrorist networks outside the Philippines, including Malaysia and Indonesia. 46. Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr., A Theory of Interest Convergence: Explaining the Impact of US Strategic Support on Southeast Asia s Human Rights Situation, , PhD Dissertation, Department of Political and Social Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin, 2015, pp. 108; Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr., Bilveer Singh on the «Taliban» of Southeast Asia, Asia-Pacific Social Science Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2009, pp Highlights of the 2012 Full Year Official Poverty Statistics, Philippine Statistics Authority Web Site ( 145

20 salvador santino F. regilme Jr. & carmina Yu untalan The region contributes only 1.3% to the Philippine national economy, the lowest among 18 administrative regions. 48 In other words, both history and socio-economic conditions exacerbated the already deep resentment that Muslims feel against the national government. The ceaseless armed clashes between separatist groups and the military are clearly manifestations of such problems. Peace negotiations with the Muslims in ARMM have been taking place since the 1989 Tripoli Agreement, which granted partial autonomy to the region. Ultimately, these negotiations have not led to a solution of the ongoing conflict, both because of disagreements among faction groups within the Bangsamoro itself and the lack of consistency on the part of the national government. 49 For instance, when President Joseph Estrada declared an allout-war against the MILF, his infamous roasted pork feast nearby a mosque caused further agitation, even among the moderate Muslims. The Arroyo administration has tried to revive the peace talks with the help of Malaysian representatives, yet the subsequent military attacks on the MILF camp caused the tragic unraveling of its efforts to settle with the Bangsamoro. The years , however, saw what could be a turning point in the relationship between the central government and the secessionist groups in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The Aquino administration, together with Malaysian and Japanese leaders, has been working towards reaching a peace agreement with the MILF since The Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro in 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014 were two milestones reached by the Aquino administration in dealing with the «moros». Moreover, at the closing of the period under review, the Congress was deliberating the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which promises to give further autonomy to the Bangsamoro. The law should guarantee the rights of self-governance and self-determination for the Bangsamoro, under the general supervision of the central government. To ensure greater and distinct autonomy, the law stipulates that the relationship between the Bangsamoro and the central government shall be considered «asymmetrical» Davao Region s economy records the fastest growth in 2014, Philippine Statistics Authority Web Site, 30 July 2015 ( psa_pr sn1-01_grdp.asp). 49. Bangsamoro is a collective term for the thirteen ethno-linguistic groups in the ARMM. While the term moro is technically linked to being a Muslim, the current usage of Bangsamoro includes non-muslims, Christians, and the lumads, who believe that the Moro is a separate national identity from the majority of the Filipinos. 50. Under the BBL, the Bangsamoro region will be granted expanded autonomy from the central government. This means that unlike local governments, the region will have more legislative powers and fewer central government interventions. See Article VI, Bangsamoro Basic Law. 146

21 the philippines While everything went relatively well, 51 skepticism girdles the BBL s passage. In January 2015, the Mamasapano incident in the ARMM province Maguindanao shook what seemed to be a somewhat smooth transition for both parties. With an estimate of 250 casualties, including 44 Special Action Force (SAF) policemen and 18 MILF members, the incident became a litmus test for Aquino s sincerity about the peace process. As the blame game between the President and SAF Commander Napeñas on who was responsible for the tragedy transpired, 52 the public s opinion regarding the BBL s efficacy as a solution to the conflict grew largely negative. 53 The Mamasapano clash raised serious doubts about the ability of a more autonomous Bangsamoro to address the precarious condition of Maguindanao. Significantly, the investigations that ensued became a reason to postpone the BBL deliberations in the Senate. Meanwhile, Aquino s trust rating dropped from 59% in November 2014 to 38% four months after the incident. 54 Besides the clash, it seems that the BBL has its own structural and internal problems. The bill has been pending for almost a year because of disagreements among lawmakers and between lawmakers and the Bangsamoro representatives. Whereas Philippine lawmakers assert the «unconstitutionality» of MILF s demands for autonomy, MILF Chief Negotiator Mogaher Iqbal accused them of justifying their reluctance to devolve more 51. There were a few high-profile disturbances in the region, including the Zamboanga Crisis in 9 September 2013, where some rogue members of the MNLF attacked Zamboanga City, a highly urbanized, predominantly Catholic city in Mindanao. 52. During the investigations, Aquino blamed SAF Commander Getulio Napenas for acting alone and defying his orders. Napeñas, on the other hand, argued that he was in fact following orders from suspended Philippine National Police Chief Director Alan Purisima, who was Aquino s close friend and was allowed to work in the operation despite his suspension. The issue has yet to be resolved and is pending further investigations in the year See Palace blames Napeñas, Philippine Star, 12 February 2015; Napeñas: PNoy, Purisima gave «implied» order to continue Mamapasano ops, GMA News Web Site, 11 February Supposedly owing to the incident, a survey conducted by Pulse Asia two months after the incident shows that 44% of Filipinos opposed the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. However, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility also warned against the unethical and sensationalized version of the media that may have swayed the public towards a negative direction. Despite this, MILF Chair Al-Haj Murad affirmed his commitment to the peace process. See Pulse Asia Research s March 2015 Nationwide Survey on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Mamasapano Operation, and the Presidential Resignation, Pulse Asia Web Site ( pulseasia.ph/ub2015.html); Media coverage of the Mamasapano Clash: Unethical, inflammatory and sensationalized, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, 4 March 2015; Gov t to pursue BBL passage, won t give up on goal of Bangsamoro peace, progress, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Web Site ( gov.ph/milf/news/govt-pursue-bbl-passage-won%e2%80%99t-give-goal-bangsamoropeace-progress). 54. Pulse Asia Research s March 2015 Nationwide Survey on Presidential Performance and Trust Ratings, Pulse Asia Web Site ( 147

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